‘Political literacy’ in South Africa


  • Anne Harley University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Zamalotshwa Thusi University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa




Authoritarian left, Paulo Freire, political illiteracy, political literacy, South Africa


Research over the last few decades has supported the contention that ‘there are different literacy practices in different domains of social life ….[and] these change over time’_x000D_
(Hamilton, Tett, & Crowther, 2012, p.3). In this article, we use ‘political literacy’, as conceived by Paulo Freire, as a theoretical lens through which to consider non-formal education in the changing context of South Africa. After considering the influence of Freire’s thinking in the black consciousness (BC) movement in South Africa during the 1970s, we consider a current BC-aligned non-formal education intervention in Freedom Park, a township outside Johannesburg, drawing on research conducted in 2018. This used snowball sampling and qualitative data collection methods, including observation of a ‘political class’ currently run in the community. We found that, in contrast to ways in which Freire was used in the BC movement in the anti-Apartheid struggle, the ‘political class’ leaned towards what Freire termed the authoritarian left.


Metrics Loading ...




How to Cite

Harley, A., & Thusi, Z. (2020). ‘Political literacy’ in South Africa. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 11(1), 77–90. https://doi.org/10.3384/rela.2000-7426.rela9148